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How User Research Can Help Improve Your Agency’s Benefits Implementation, Service Delivery Workflows, and Procurement

U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response
4 min readOct 28, 2022


U.S. Digital Response (USDR) is launching a call for partners for our user research focus area. Check out our lessons learned from working with governments across the country and find out what user research, and USDR, can do for your agency.

By: USDR’s Digital Delivery Team

Is your agency looking to increase benefit utilization and lower barriers to access? Perhaps your office’s services feel blocked because you are operating under a backlog of applications, claims, or other demands?

Or maybe, you’re planning a procurement for a resident-facing system or service and not sure how to make it “human-centered”?

Creating a government “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people” takes intention. Just barely a year ago, the Biden Administration signed an Executive Order on “transforming federal customer experience and service delivery” with the goal to improve the design of digital services and the customer experience for all people. At USDR, we see user research as a vital part of this process.

When done right, user research is an essential element of the success of a service. Whether you’re trying to answer the questions above, or looking for best practices when listening to the very people who will be using your programs, USDR is here to help.

Today we are launching new areas of focus within our user research service, all based on valuable lessons learned from helping government agencies. We are actively looking for partners to join our portfolio of projects — particularly helping partners with:

💸 Research to improve user experiences with public benefits

While most government benefits are intended for underserved populations, too often their voices are also missing in those services. From policy design to implementation, all aspects of benefits delivery are served by proximity to user stories.

In-depth, qualitative interviews with residents offer valuable insights. This last year, USDR conducted user interviews with families who applied for government-sponsored child care benefits across the country. The insights this research uncovered can help inform benefits implementation, providing actionable takeaways and recommendations with real-life examples.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry used quantitative and qualitative user research when looking to improve its unemployment compensation website. USDR worked with their team to implement user-centered design and ultimately help improve how users access information on their website.

🔀 Blueprints for service delivery workflows

Especially when delivery workflows touch many teams, getting a complete picture of the process can take time and effort to identify and implement improvements. By collecting information from across your organization into a service map, teams can build a shared understanding of internal processes, uncover bottlenecks that tee up actions for optimization, and understand the experience of your employees in delivering services.

When the St. Louis Homeless Services Division was looking to house more people facing homelessness, USDR worked with their team to improve their workflows and relieve administrative burden so they could dedicate more resources to their goal. The team worked to understand the blueprints of internal workflows powering their services and replaced inefficient processes with time-saving automations and data migrations. The results? With a reported 30 hours a week of administrative time saved from tedious manual processes, the team served seven times more households and cut the average time to place a resident in a home from 90 days to 27.

When the Memphis Shelby County Emergency Rental Assistance (MSCERA) coalition needed to quickly scale its Emergency Rent and Utility Assistance Program, USDR helped the team transition to new tools through scaling their workflows. It was so effective the US Treasury featured their workflow process as a best practice for Emergency Rental Assistance.

💰 Supporting human-centered procurement

As you undergo modernization, it’s critical to make sure that your new systems are informed by the needs of your residents. Rather than starting your RFP from zero, rapid rounds of research and prototyping can surface and vet user needs so that you have confidence in the system you procure.

The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) wanted to build a software tool that could help streamline procurement processes and help schools in California purchase locally-grown food. Through a user-centered approach, USDR guided CAFF and helped create a request for proposal to bring on a software team that could make their dreams a reality.

🗽 For the people, by the people

User research can help guide countless aspects of government services. If you are looking for actionable insights to improve the delivery of benefits or services, struggling to understand your end-to-end processes, or just looking for a partner who can help — use this form to reach out! USDR has contributed user research on more than 40 projects with our government partners, and our researchers are ready to support you.



U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response

Connecting governments and nonprofits with pro bono technologists and assistance to quickly respond to the critical needs of the public.